The atmosphere was juiced for the Bears' first "Monday Night Football" game in five years. The fans at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium booed the visiting Green Bay Packers heartily and cheered the home Bears mightily.
But if the fans appeared to understand their assigned theatrical yelling roles from the start, the silent treatment emerged spontaneously. As has happened so frequently during his career, Packers quarterback Brett Favre shut them up.
By the end of the first quarter, the 12-year veteran out of Southern Mississippi seemed to be heading for a world-record passing day. Favre had completed 8-of-11 passes for 180 yards.
The play that hit the fans' mute button came on Green Bay's second possession. The Pack took over on its 15-yard line. Favre took the snap, rolled left, stopped and pitched a long strike to a streaking Donald Driver, who outran R.W. McQuarters and Mike Brown for an 85-yard TD.
Driver has emerged as Favre's go-to guy. Before this season, his seasonal high for catches was 21. Before this game, he had 21 catches in 2002. For good measure, Driver also caught a 17-yard pass and gained 13 yards on a reverse in the quarter.
But Favre was an equal-opportunity offensive employer in the quarter, also firing a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyrone Davis. Green Bay led 14-7 at the end of the quarter.
Mike Brown should be hired for a magic-fingers bed endorsement. Already a legend for his two game-winning interceptions for touchdowns last season, the Bears' free safety was once again a ball magnet in a critical situation.
The Bears were trailing 21-7 and Packers quarterback Brett Favre appeared to be revving up for another touchdown march. Favre whipped a pass to receiver Donald Driver, who held on to the ball just long enough for the reception to count. His drop was a live ball, and Brown scooped it up and dashed to the Green Bay 4-yard line.
The play was a momentum-changer, providing the Bears with golden field position. On the third try from scrimmage, Jim Miller flipped a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Davis, and the Bears were back in the ballgame.
Although middle linebackers are historically beloved in Chicago, absolutely nobody in Champaign expected Brian Urlacher to be fading back to pass. Midway through the quarter, the Bears set up to punt from their 36-yard line.
The snap went to receiver Marty Booker, who flipped the ball to Urlacher, who threw a pretty nice spiral toward snapper Patrick Mannelly. Incomplete, but the play was a sharp retort to anyone who criticizes the Bears' limited offensive creativity.
The Bears have long taken immense pride in their defense, and defense was the cornerstone of last year's 13-3 team. So the fans were definitely clued in at game's start when defensive end Phillip Daniels and cornerback R.W. McQuarters were introduced as starters. Out with injuries from Week 1, neither was expected to play.
Yet it was Bad, Bad Mike Brown who made the biggest splash.